Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Presentation Skills. . . Being a Chameleon

To be a success at presentations, you have to be a chameleon of sorts. A chameleon is distinctive, highly-specialized, and adaptive to the environment. While some of my skill with successful presentations is intuitive, much of it has evolved from my background.

From the get-go, I wanted to be a journalist. I studied it, lived and breathed it. I began at a small news station outside of Oregon as an anchor until I moved on to WFLD Fox Chicago's morning show and gained experience in field and in-house production. But the urge to return to my roots got the better of me, and I moved back to Los Angeles to work in a production capacity at KTTV Fox LA. In addition to that, I gained a lot of experience working on the Cable ACE Awards as well as with Nickelodeon and finally with a main title and end crawl production company for feature films.

Then, something else started to pull on me. I love hard work, but I craved a well-balanced life. To get to the level I desired in my journalism career, I'd have to be married to the 19-hour days it required. So, I started to reflect on what I truly wanted.

As luck would have it, I decided to go to work for a small, boutique event company in Santa Monica, thinking it would give me time to figure out what I really wanted to do. But, I quickly realized it was corporate production, and I knew how to do it! Next, the owner asked me if I could sell. Now, here's the interesting part. As a kid, I could sell anything - whether it was jewelry, candy. . . anything. I hadn't chosen this path before, because I though it was too easy! Live and learn! I loved to sell and jumped on it and brought in millions annually.

Again, luck or fate intervened. Industry professionals told me about Extraordinary Events and encouraged me to talk to Andrea Michaels. We met eight years ago, and I've never looked back! It's clear to me now that my backgrounds in journalism and live production were simply my post-graduate work in preparation for special events. Journalism required me to be very detailed, accurate and personable. If you need to extract information from someone, it's a must that you hone in on the important points. Live production requires putting in the time to get the job done right, often involving do-or-die situations and, yes, some but not all 18-hour days. Does that sound familiar? Journalism, live production and live events all have the same objectives. All my targeted markets have the same needs. It's just how we get there that makes them different.

What does all of this have to do with making successful presentations? If you have a dream, persevere. Keep going until you get it. That's what I did. Definitely not the easy road but a highly educational and exciting one.

Tips on How to Make a Fabulous Presentation

At this point, you're saying, "Give me some concrete tips, Jenna. How do I make a fabulous presentation?" Here's what I do.
  1. Imagine a presentation like a first date. Take your time getting ready. Look and feel confident.
  2. Be EARLY and take some time to set the room exactly how  you want it. Adjust the lights, move the chairs around. Create the experience you want the people in the presentation to have.
  3. Do your homework and know your audience. Not only the company but its corporate environment and mission.
  4. Make sure you do a lot of listening to the client prior to presenting the proposal. It's critical that you give them what they want, not what you want.
  5. Be professional, compassionate, and realize that you must communicate differently to a variety of companies. For instance, I would communicate differently to an automobile company as opposed to a pharmaceutical company. It's imperative that before you present that you gauge what you need to do. This is where being a chameleon really rings true.
  6. When I am presenting, I play with the levels of my voice. Sometimes I use a strong and commanding tone. At other times, I modulate it to be much softer. . . then, I go to almost a whisper. Initially, I stand in front of the group and then make my way closer to the individuals, making close eye contact. I walk all the way around the group, stopping next to some of the key people or decision makers and often saying something directly to that person, as appropriate, while making eye contact. I take my time and punctuate my presentation with pauses and yes some laughter, but again you must be able to recognize when it is the right time. Timing is everything. So play with your voice to accentuate important points.
  7.  Make no mistake, I get nervous every time. However, when you look and feel confident, have done your homework and have intertwined it into your presentation and believe in what you are presenting, you have done all you can to win. No regrets.
  8. In a presentation, the last thing you want to do is talk about your company. Talk about them. The presentation is about them, not you. Even if they want you to come in and talk about your company. . . provide case studies that illustrate how your company can solve problems, their problems.
  9. If they want to know more about us at the end of our presentation, I show them beauty shots of events we've done. In addition, I always have two great stories prepared to share at the end of my presentation that illustrates a problem, solution and a takeaway.
  10. Most  presentations fail because the presenter doesn't understand or communicate effectively what the client truly wants. This is a very creative, complex process but a fulfilling one. 
Jenna Linnekens is the Director of Business Development for Extraordinary Events. Her primary responsibility is to bring revenue to the company. She provides support for business development to her colleagues by helping them develop business from an internal database as well as attracting new clients. A strategic thinker and businesswoman, Jenna has vied for and won numerous multi-year contracts producing millions in business for Extraordinary Events. To contact Jenna Linnekens, email her at

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Career Launch - The Adventures of a Rising Star

A little more than a year ago, I was the receptionist at Extraordinary Events. To my complete and utter surprise, in March of 2013, I was designated as an Event Solutions magazine’s Rising Star! How did it happen? How did I go from a receptionist to being awarded as an event producer?

Andrea has asked me to share my story in hopes that it might help others who are in the process of launching their careers in the event business. I hope it does!

Why Events?

Coming to work at EE was one of those coincidental events that, if you are lucky, happens at the right time. As a full-time freshman at USC, I took a job with the University’s Office of Cultural Relations & University Events – the only office willing to hire me - because I needed the money for my education. And it was a complete fluke that I discovered my passion for events. In my four years there, I assisted the managing director to produce dozens of events every year. Some of them included a 2-day gala for USC’s Campaign Kickoff, the University’s annual 40,000-guest commencement ceremonies, as well as numerous events honoring Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Dalai Lama. I also had the opportunity to work on the Primetime Emmys Governors’ Ball and personally produce numerous events for various organizations.

I was drawn to making people smile, and events did just that! The guests were always excited and joyful, and I wanted to play a part in making that happen. I love the rush of trying to make everything as perfect as possible before guests arrive and then fixing the unavoidable glitches that occur during the actual event. You literally have to enjoy that to make it in this business.

I’ve done both live theatre and events. Both are very similar and bring excitement to guests. However, there’s more spontaneity in live events than live theater. I love that one cannot fully rehearse an event because the guests play such a huge role in it. At an event, guests get a chance to walk, talk and interact with the décor and entertainment. At a theater show, the audience sits in one place, looks at one half of the room, and is very limited in terms of interaction. It’s a case of a very immersive experience vs. an observational one.

Why Extraordinary Events?

When I was a senior at USC, another one of life’s flukes occurred. One of EE’s Account Executives, Chris Clark, reached out to my former boss as the USC Events Office about a job opening as a receptionist at Extraordinary Events. Considering I was still a full-time student and had a whole semester left to complete, I didn’t think I could do it all. Luckily, my boss pushed me a little, and a week later, I was working at Extraordinary Events as the receptionist!

Before I knew it, I graduated from USC in May, 2012, with my Bachelors in Cinematic Arts: Film and Television Production with a minor in Psychology. In one of her blogs, didn’t Andrea say that psychology was a key subject to study for events?

During my time as a receptionist at EE, my big mantra was and continues to be hard work. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t give 110%, then that talent is not going to get you very far. Also, a lot of times, one has to do the things he or she does not like to do in order to get the opportunity to do the things he or she loves. Patience is key.

And with my patience, the magic began to happen. I was made an “Associate Producer,” and one week later was sent on-site to San Francisco…in a “trial by fire” opportunity.  Through hard work, persistence and the great mentoring of my associates, I went on a month later to be the lead producer on an event in Louisiana. Again, this was another wonderful learning opportunity where I had the chance to apply discipline and hard work with the mentorship of the EE team.

Is a Trial by Fire Beneficial?

It helped me in the sense that I learned very quickly. There was very little room for error, which encouraged me to make sure I did everything correctly the first time around. However, I won’t deny that the steep learning curve wasn’t a bit stressful. I am a perfectionist and like to do things with utmost accuracy, so it was nerve-wracking. On the bright side, being so stressed also taught me a lot about stress management!  So really, it was a win-win situation.

What Have I learned at EE?

My job at EE as an Associate Producer has garnered me a myriad of skills designing proposals for our clients; managing budgets; sourcing vendors, including venues, décor, entertainment, and technical elements; communicating our visions, needs and expectations with those vendors; creating our on-site production documents; overseeing our vendors on-site; and then tying up all the loose ends during post-production. So, as you can see, it is hard work.

What Does It Take to Become a Rising Star?

The main qualities of a rising star are a strong work ethic, good communication skills, and potential. Potential is a tricky quality because it is difficult to define. In my opinion, potential is measured by a positive reception of one’s skills or talent soon after entering his or her industry. 

I believe my work ethic, curiosity and flexibility have not only been integral to becoming a rising star, but have also been integral to my lifelong success. I've been consistently employed since I was 12 years old and have been praised by teachers, mentors and employers in a wide range of industries from entertainment to science. My work ethic allows me to put in the time and effort to learn anything I want. It's about discipline. I am a trained ballerina, and ballet teaches remarkable discipline. That, I believe has transcended into my work ethic. My curiosity allows me to want to learn about endless topics, industries and skills. My flexibility allows me to adapt to different methods of learning and accomplishing similar tasks.

In addition to those qualities, I have been fortunate enough to travel widely. I am originally from France, so by the age of 13, I had been to Spain, Canada, numerous islands in the Caribbean and every region of the United States. (I played the role of Emmy in the national tour of Dragon Tales Live! from 2003-2004.) It was one of the most exhilarating and eye-opening experiences of my life. Who can say they have traveled the United States and visited practically every major landmark at 13 years of age? I am so lucky.

In this business, it’s critical to continuously learn about other people and their cultures. Because I have been afforded that opportunity, I know and appreciate endless cuisines, fashions and art styles. These are just some of the qualities for the event business that will give you a leg up.

If I could give my peers a blueprint to success, I’d always go back to my mantra: hard work. Employers and clients want producers with whom they can depend and with whom they enjoy working. So if you are dependable and work hard enough to always get the job done well, then you will be recognized and respected. It is also important to be kind to everyone and keep your options open. This will allow you to make the connections necessary to eventually join a large production company or get a big-time client.

Do you have questions for Flo? If you do, you can reach her via